Combing the skeletal airship, they come across a group of crash victims restrained to their chairs so that they could not leave. Heading toward the front of the ship, they are unable to locate the pilot of the ship: no body, no skeleton, nothing to indicate that anyone had been steering the airship. Outside the wreckage, the meet with a Mr. Stokes a representative from Chapman and Villiers, one of the leading air transportation services in the country, and that hey had recently begun to use automatons to pilot their airships. Stokes assures Newbury and Hobbes that the automaton could not have malfunctioned. However, the duo sets out on their own investigation to find the missing pilot, and in the process, uncover the dark secret behind the automatons and a possible connection to the glowing policeman.
The Affinity Bridge spins a fun mystery/adventure tale set within the steampunk world of Victorian London. Electric lights, steam-powered airships, zombies, mechanical men -- what a world to explore, and yet author George Mann manages to keep things firmly within the Victorian world. One of my favorite examples of this is Miss Hobbes preferring to use a regular horse and carriage rather than one of those noisy, mechanical contraptions being controlled by drivers who still aren't too comfortable with the technology. Plus, his characters are all well-written and strong, from the unflappable Miss Hobbes (who has dark familial secrets) and the technologically-enthused Sir Maurice to the squirrely and smarmy Mr. Stokes and the unemotional and determined Pierre Villiers -- the creator of the automatons.
My only fault with the novel is the side story of John Coulthard. Introduced in the prologue while serving in the war in India, his character disappears almost immediately after that. His sister happens to be Sir Maurice's receptionist, but the search for him and the reason behind his disappearance don't affect the main story in any way and doesn't have any relevance to it.
But that is very minor in relation to the rest of the book. The Affinity Bridge is a great mixture of mystery and steampunk -- a fun read that I definitely enjoyed.
The Affinity Bridge
by George Mann
A Tor Book/Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
trade paperback, 334 pgs.